GRADE I † Mostly early C14 and C15. Built with local stone: lias and ham. A fine C17 cube dial, 2 slightly unrewarding scratch dials, impressive gargoyles. A complete set of 5 bells dated 1582, 1621, 1623, 1664 and 1666, all by Purdue family. Some pews have graffiti from C17 on. 3m N of Yeovil. 50.9773 / -2.6086 / ST573199
I have previously posted about St Mary with the emphasis on the splendid CUBE DIAL high on the apex of the E end. I mentioned 2 scratch dials but because they fall into the separate Medieval Dial category I am giving them some more attention here.
MUDFORD: TWO SCRATCH DIALS
The two dials are on the inner face of the buttress at the E end of the church, one above the other – a less than optimal position.They were obviously relocated and incorporated during expansion / restoration and used as quoin stones for the buttress, though pointless as dials where they are now. The stones themselves are similar, but it seems unlikely that the 2 dials were adjacent before being moved.
Dial 1 is very simple: a style hole with 2 lines descending, the noon line and 1pm. A rod gnomon would very clearly mark the noon part of the day, perhaps indicating that Mass was not quite yet… or that it had been missed…
There is a similar 2-line dial at BROADMAYNE Dorset, where the 2 lines are at either side of the vertical (ie at 11 and 1), cut so that ‘noon’ is in effect the space between them. At COMPTON PAUNCEFOOT there is a large dial on the facade with 3 lines: noon and one each side.
Dial 2 has 4 clear lines radiating from the style hole. These are E of the vertical, marking roughly 1 to 4 (there is no noon line). On both dials there are faint hints of other lines now eroded.
DEH recorded the Mudford dials in May 2015 during a tour of several churches in the area
GRADE II* † C13 chancel; C14 nave and lower tower with porch (top stage added later); extensive mid-C19 restoration and rebuilding by J Hicks (Thomas Hardy is said to have drawn the plans while apprenticed.) Portland Stone. 5m SE of Dorchester. 50.6788 / -2.3857 / SY728866
There are 3 dials. 2 are adjacent on E side of the porch which is (unusually) set in the tower. Dial 1 is eroded but visible. Dial 2 is vestigial and easily overlooked (eg by BHO / RCHM). Dial 3 is relocated well out of sight on the NE quoin of the church, a place it could never have been originally. It is much the clearest cut of the 3.
Dial 1 is visible as one walks up the path from the gate, but the details remain unclear even close to. The BSS record shows 12 lines within a partial circle, the lower part cut off at the edge of the dial stone, suggesting it may have been relocated during rebuilding. I’ve visited St Martin twice, in sunlight and in early evening, and frustratingly I haven’t been able to make out the complete dial shown below. The colour of the stone is a factor. RHS is quite eroded; or perhaps LHS was more deeply incised because it marked the most signifiant time of day for observance.
As indicated above, dial 2 is unrewarding. Records suggest 4 lines and 2 circles, though I couldn’t see the latter. The images below have been recoloured to bring out the details, such as they are…
Dial 3 is a small and simple one, with 4 lines. The noon line is emphasised; and the Mass line (Tierce) has a cross.
The fact that the hole in this buttress stone is centered made me look at it more closely. In 3D rather than in the photo, it is a plausible dial with 2 quite long lines, being the noon line and ‘1.00pm’. With a stick in the hole, it would have been perfectly serviceable for marking the sun’s progress from morning to afternoon. There is a similar dial at MUDFORD Somerset, where the 2 lines are at 11 and 1, cut so that the noon line is centered between them.
GRADE I † C13 et seq, on early C12 site. Gradual development but (unusually) with little obvious C19 workBHO. Good C16 bench ends. S porch built c1440, originally thatched, with the polar scaphe sundial added later, see LINK. The multiple scratch dials of St Margaret are shown below. DEH recorded 4, but there are several more. 5m NW of Yeovil; just S of dread A303. 50.9746 / -2.7156 / ST498197
I visited St Margaret some time ago and have mislaid my notes on the various locations. The dials are all on the S side and all but one are in predictable locations though a couple are not easy to see. Most are on buttresses. One dial (3) is quite high up and would be easy to overlook. There are enough dials for me to skip – and for you to be spared – analysis of each one individually (for the time being at least).
On the buttress at E end of the church
On the same buttress as dial 1
High on a buttress, E end
On the buttress E of the Priest’s door
Close to Dial 5
S buttress near doorway
E of porch
DIAL 10 (?)
According to the very useful resource Sundials On The Internet, the smallest known scratch dial is at St Margaret’s, location unspecified. It measures a mere 2 inches in height. Possibly it is the hole below. There is a very similar one at Leintwardine Shrops that has been deemed a dial, though it’s just hole with a couple of minimal indentations around it. I saw no other candidate, and had I not known about the 2″ dial I would have passed this by without a second glance.
GRADE II* † Saxon origins, mentioned DB, no remnants remain. Nave dated c1180; rebuilding ± 1200, chancel added; tower added then or soon after. Mid-Victorian restorations; shingled spire rebuilt 1913. Much of interest within the church – see HERE for highlights. 6m NE of Guildford. 51.2509 / -0.5052 / TQ044512
There are 4 dials, each of significance. On the S wall of the chancel, there is a wonderful dial framed in ashlar stone as if to emphasise its qualities. Inside the church – not just inside the porch – are 3 dials cut on the same stone. Interior dials are almost inevitably the result of relocation and are scarce enough (cf THORNFORD); 3 together must be very rare.
POSITION Relocated from a buttress to the S wall of the chancel, enclosed by a surround of 4 stones set into the local flint and described elsewhere as …marred by the addition of an inappropriate stone frame (an arguable view?). BSS notes a possible inversion based on variations in the size of the dots; but that would nullify the point of the emphatic noon line design. Unless the 4 pocks were added later of course…
DATE The dial seems so sophisticated in design and execution that I had thought it ±C15. However BHO records a stone on which is cut an early circular sundial probably of the 12th century; it has three circles and is divided in twenty-four spaces by radiating lines; four dots mark the hour of noon and a small cross that of six p.m. A Surrey survey records Dated c 1180 by Johnston (1900, 74), SyAC, 21 (1908), 83-100. This date certainly corresponds to the construction of the nave / the additions soon after. So this is a very early dial probably dating from the construction of the church in its present form and clearly merits its prominent location and ashlar protection.
DEREK RENN in his research on the dials of Surrey considered this dial to be the most elaborate in the county, describing it as three concentric circles divided by 24 equidistant radii, having drilled holes at the intersections, as well as on the arms of an external cross and beside another line at right angles to the cross.
HOW THE DIAL WORKS AS A CALENDAR
DR also explains ingeniously how the dial might have worked: This would function best as an equatorial dial… mounted in the plane of the equator with its upright pointer parallel to the earth’s axis and not vertical, but even then little more than one-half of the dial would be necessary. A possible explanation is that the dial also functioned as a calendar: a peg was moved daily from hole to hole, the cross marking the point at which the peg progressed to the next circle. Another peg counted the number of complete circuits of the ‘board’ for the year on the four separate holes, with the odd days as well. In arithmetical terms: 24 x 3 x (4+1) – 360, +(4+1) = 365
DIALS 2 – 4
These 3 dials are closely grouped on a single stone on the north face of the west jamb of the south doorway. It would be interesting to know where they were originally located, and when / why they were moved to their present position with a purely decorative function.
DIAL 1 has 7 lines including the horizontals in a late a.m. to early p.m. formation. They are rather untidily incised and only 6 are clearly distinguishable. They are within a very faint perimeter curve, with 3 extending beyond it.
DIAL 2 has 5 lines radiating from a large (for its size) style hole. The lines are interestingly formed: 2 lightly cut a.m. lines; 2 deeper cut p.m. lines and extended noon line. The incisions of the latter 3 are unusually decorative, with one being slightly wedge-shaped. Overall, it seems clear that the afternoon was the most important time for daily religious purposes.
DIAL 3 is fully encircled with one clear line roughly corresponding to Tierce. The other 2 (3?) are faint and rudimentary in comparison. Another large style hole completes the design.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Multiple Dials; Early Dials
All photos: Keith Salvesen. Research material: usual resources BLB HE BHO &co; David Ross; Derek Renn
GRADE I † Early C13 chancel with trace transepts (BHO); C14 crossing tower; C15 south chapel and nave; restoration mid-C19 (Ferrey). A most unusual late C17 octagonal dial; 6m SW of Blandford Forum, just off the main road to Dorchester (12m). 50.8004 / -2.234 / ST836001
VERTICAL DIAL C17
The remarkable vertical dial is located at the apex of the S Chapel gable. It dates to late C17 (BHO). The lines radiating from the top end of the gnomon are reminiscent of a scratch dial. The dial is canted for accuracy, and deeply enough to accommodate a rare E dial. Both gnomons are unusual, not least by being more toothed than merely serrated.
THE EAST DIAL
It is very unusual (and possibly unique) to bother to delineate the east or west edge of a canted dial; and really quite strange to use such a tall gnomon, which will only cast a shadow for an hour or two at most.JF / BSS
John Foad (BSS) kindly marked up a close-up of the E. dial to show how it would have worked. He writes: It should have diagonal hour lines on it, though there is probably only room for a couple, as it will only see the sun briefly around 6 each morning. There is a suggestion in the records that there were at one time 2 raised lines, but a magnified image reveals no surviving evidence.
GRADE II* † C14, with (unusually) few changes until C19 additions and restorations (Street). An attractively uncomplicated church and churchyard. The tower houses 7 bells, of which 4 are dated 1600. 14m E of Dorchester 50.7778 / -2.1967 / SY862976
As I read it, the dial has a clear ‘midnight to noon’ line, extended at both ends; and a fainter 6-to-6 horizontal that ends more or less on the circumference. There are 3 other clear lines in LL quadrant, and perhaps other faint traces. I can’t make out more than that, even in a close-up. GLP recorded 13 lines, 7 of which extend beyond the circumference and notes that the dial is partially divided into decimal hours (LL quadrant), with ‘morning hours’ divided into 5 sections and the ‘afternoon hours’ into 6 (I’m not seeing the afternoon hours). He compares it to PIDDLEHINTON.
GRADE I † C13 origin (nave, chancel); C14 S porch; C15 enlargement, tower; C19 restorations inc Wyatt. Good C13 south door: cusped arch, carved heads as dripstones BHO. 2 Purdue bells. Early C16 oak pulpit, bench ends. 10m NE Dorchester. A most attractive and well-kept church. 50.7427 / -2.2772 / SY805937
THES SEATYS WERE MADE YN THE YERE OF OWRE LORD GOD MCCCCCXLV
IN THE THYME OF THOMAS LYLLYNGTON VICAR O THYS CHERCH.
St Laurence has 2 dials, one either side of the nave window. Unusually, both are entirely designed with holes (cf TRENT) apart from a token noon indicator on Dial 1, barely discernible (see diagram).
W jamb of the nave window, in poor condition. Besides the single vertical line, there are 8 small holes in a curve below the style hole. 2 further holes emphasise Nones, the Mass time equating in clock terms to 3pm. GLP notes that the dial is accurately cut.
Dial 2 is on the E jamb, a longer and clearer semicircle of 12 holes. There are a couple of small holes that might be for emphasis / to mark a half hour (see eg between 9 and 10). GLP notes that the style hole is very small / shallow for a gnomon. Again he found the dial very accurate, most holes being within 4º of true, with 5 exactly correct.
CHURCH MARKS OF ST LAURENCE
Some of those interested in medieval church dials (and you have after all reached here) are likely to check a church for other medieval marks. St Laurence is worth visiting for these alone. Here are just 3 examples, of which one is especially intriguing and needs be researched further (not by me).
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Church Marks; Medieval Graffitti
GRADE I † C13 origin nave, N chapel, later enlarged; C14 tower & porch; C15 rebuilt chancel; subsequent repairs and C19 restorations. One of only 3 Dorset medieval churches with a spire (with Iwerne Minster & Winterborne Steepleton). A fascinating church smothered in history, the details best researched separately. C15 font. Pride of place is taken by the superb 16th century screen, which is one of the best in DorsetNCT. Good C16 bench ends. For a quick overview of St Andrew BLB. At the centre of the Sherborne – Yeovil – Marston Magna triangle. 50.9648 / -2.5859 / ST589185
There are 4 dials in 2 pairs. They have much in common. All are on buttresses; all are C15; and unusually, all are designed entirely with pocks, without any lines at all. There are a couple of other plausible dials with a promising style hole in a mortar line or roughly central on a stone. There are hints of pocks that may be related, but erosion and lichen make it hard to be sure. Best left as a mystery.
On the chancel, SW face of the end buttress. The gnomon hole is in the dial stone, with a curve of 7 pocks below it, of which one has a second that perhaps marked a an off-vertical noon line.
Dial 2 is the most intriguing of the 4 dials. It is below Dial 1 on the SW face of the chancel buttress. There are 24 holes drilled in a curve of 3 rows, with 8 in each row. The careful design has the dots radiating accurately from the gnomon hole as though they were lines. Additionally, there are outlier dots – 3, perhaps 4 – below the neat curve: see image above. They are drilled more or less in line with the design on the main dots, in a way that looks meant. GLP refers to them as extra dots.
Dial 3 is on the cancel buttress E of the doorway. There are 6 pocks in a curve below a gnomon hole presumed to have been in the mortar but no longer identifiable. GLP concluded that this dial and its companion below were unlikely to have been accurate.
A similar dial with 4 pocks and a cement-filled gnomon hole in the mortar line. GLP also doubted its accuracy. It is hard to account for the fact that 2 such similar basic dials are so close. Rival sextons? A competition? A new incumbent?
Note: To see the Vertical Dial, visit the Old Dial page HERE
GRADE I † C11 nave; C13 transepts; C14 chancel. From C17, alterations and restorations inc by Wyatt in 1860. Large and interesting cruciform churchPEV. Marble Feversham family monuments by Scheemakers. Significant local legacy from Neolithic, Iron Age, Roman (Villa) and Saxon times. 9m S of Salisbury. 50.9937 / -1.7433 / SU181216
St Laurence has 2 dials on the 2nd buttress E of the porch, one above the other. The upper one is a fine example of a large dial filling the dial stone. The lower is so badly damaged / eroded that it would be easy miss; and it is quite hard to imagine what it looked like originally.
Dial 1 is encircled, with 13 lines and 24 pocks around the perimeter and forming 2 crosses . This large dial not only takes up the width of the stone, the circumference continues onto the stone below as do some lines (esp. 11am). The noon line ends in a 4-dot cross on the main stone, and the 9am line has a 5-dot cross on the lower stone.
The gnomon hole is of particular interest; I haven’t come across a square hole with (apparently) a circular one inside it before. Possibly the original gnomon was a basic rod, and its round hole later enlarged to accommodate a more visible square rod.
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Medieval Sundial; Church Dated Initials
GRADE II* † Early C13 chancel, nave, N doorway; C15 N porch; c1500 W Tower; later additions; C19 restorations. A simple typically Dorset small church in an attractive location. 2m S of Dorchester (can be combined with Winterborne Steepleton nearby (2 dials). 50.6884 / -2.4604 / SY675877
GLP notes a single doubtful dial over a blocked doorway, not included in BSS records. However there is a clear inverted dial elsewhere on S side. There is also a dial-ish quoin stone that I include. There’s not enough evidence to consider it much more than doubtful, but the location is conventional and the overall ‘jizz’ (to use a birding term) invited more than a glance.
Above the blocked S aisle door, C16. GLP suggests a masons’ mark rather than a scratch dial and notes a similar ‘dial’ at Hilton, near Blandford. There are 2 faint concentric circles. The very small central hole that would be more consistent with the use of a compass inscribe the circle.
Quite high up at the W end of the S face is a very clear dial that I have not found recorded elsewhere. There are 7 lines, each ending in a pock and with the (presumed) 9-line having a second pock, doubtless the main Mass time. The reversion below shows how the design would have worked well as a morning dial.
The most intriguing feature is the presence of (the remains of) a square rod in the style hole, with filler material round it. It seems highly unlikely to be original, though it may have been inserted many years ago perhaps as a replacement gnomon. A square rod in not so rare: there is one at St Mary, Glanvilles Wootton, for example.
DIAL 3 ?
An excellent dial position, a hole almost central to the stone, and inverted (if a dial at all) as often the case where a dial has been superseded or its stone relocated. I have included a reversion that makes the upwards mark into a noon line. There are hints of perimeter pocks in LR quadrant.
Finally, there are 3 fine C17 memorial floor slabs to admire
GSS Category: Scratch Dial; Mass Dial; Gnomon Rod; Masons’ Mark, C17 memorial floor slabs